May 12, 2009

One young workers take on the BC leadership debate

Last weeks leader debate offered few suprises from the ruling Liberal Party, Texcept perhaps that I we got to watch a nervous Gordo stumble towards the end in the face of difficult questions and stabbing criticism from James and Sterk. I don't think he was expecting any real significant challenge from the other party leaders, James hasn't been known for her strong leadership, but at this debate she seemed confident and strong despite the continued weakness of her parties message.

When discussing the deficit the Greens continued their "we don't want to move BC left OR right, we want to move it forward" line in an effort to appeal to voters from both parties based on environmental issues. Sterk also talked about the need for investment in green jobs and industries which we can obviously agree with, but then she continued to talk about forming "small, regional economies not 'things that are big." How she intends to do this in a modern industrial society was not explained.

James mentioned tax relief, but didn't mention who for and didn't mention how the hell she plans to have fund social programmes if she is going to reduce taxes and hasn't mentioned plans to nationalize or at least progressively tax private industries.

The next question was on rural areas and representation. James talked about a "rura infrastructure fund" and made a good call on the crisis in forestry and the export of raw logs. Sterk mostly re-iterated her previous points while Gordo asked an amusing and telling question "Why is it that not one major employer group supports NDP policy." He went on to accuse the NDP of an "attack on small business."

The third question was on crime. Here Jane Sterk really stepped up to the plate, pointing out that we can not police our way out of crime and that we had to look at the societal and economic root causes and fix those. The Greens were the best on the issue of crime by a long shot. The Liberals called for more police, funding for special gang task forces and tougher penalties and the NDP did little more than mimic these reactionary demands. Carole James even declared that her plan included hiring twice the number of new police being proposed by Gordo's gang. The NDP seems to be taking a very opportunistic position on this question, much the way they did on the issue of Palestine. In some ways, she was criticising Gordon Campbell from the right at
times. Gordo, in response, showed his anti-woman colours in his patronising treatment of James.

Health care was next up and the Greens and NDP both seemed decent on this front. Both called for a public/single payer system. The Greens talked a little about prevention and also mentioned the bulk buying of generic drugs.

Gordo talked all around the issue but said nothing.

Finally, the privatization of BC Hydro and run-of-river power came up. Sterk said we don't need more electricity. This is a position being put forward by many of our allies in the fight to save BC Hydro and stop private power. This is a big debate going on right now. It is true that today we do not need more electricity. But in the near future we may with the advent of electric cars, expanding public transit and, hopefully, new green industries. The question is how much do we need and making sure that it is done publicly. The Greens also advocate a public-private mixed system according to their website and in her speech she BC Hydro should become the "BC Energy Authority" but that new energy could come from public, co-op or municipal sources.
She also mentioned solar and other sources but didn't mention who she thought should develop them.

James re-iterated the NDPs weak policy of a two year moratorium on run-of-river and other private power and keeping BC Hydro publicly owned. It doesn't go far enough, but it was the best position presented at the debate. 

Gordo simply denied everything.

Logically, the environment came next. James advocated a cap & trade system which, in my view, is just the privatization of the atmosphere. Gordo advocated his useless carbon tax and Sterk actually advocated making the carbon tax even worse by increasing it dramatically in
order to engineer a change in peoples behaviours. She went on to say "None of us have the right answers." On that front, I think she is quite right, none of those parties have any answers when it comes to global warming and none of them will as long as they support the existing capitalist system.

Wages - James advocated $10 minimum wage but failed to mention axing the "training wage" or indexing minimum wage to inflation. She and Sterk both rightly opposed the massive raises the Liberals voted themselves and other MLAs last year and Sterk called for them to be
rolled back. Sterk was actually the best on the issue of wages as well because she called for a "guaranteed livable income" much like what the CCPA calls for. This goes far beyond the much more limited minimum wage demand. On the other hand, she didn't mention who will pay for
this wage i.e. workers through taxes, or corporations. This throws the position into question.

Campbell simply continued to thumb his nose at the working poor in BC and attack Carole James for having "no business experience." So, she isn't a business woman at least. That's the best endorsement I have heard so far, thanks Gordo!

The next topic was child poverty. By this point Gordo was starting to flounder a bit. It is very hard to rationalize or justify starving children... I guess Gordo learned that lesson on debate night and I'm sure he will try to avoid that kind of question in the future. Sterk re-iterated the need for a guaranteed livable income and James talked minimum wage and reducing tuition... being the only one of them to finally recognize the plight of students.

Sure enough, the next topic was tuition. Sterk and James were both ok on this although obviously not going far enough. Sterk said tuition was like a mortgage and that debts should be forgiven after 5 years of living, working and paying taxes in BC. That went a little farther than James who talked about freezing and reducing. Gordo simply didn't answer this question, instead he talked about making education more "accessible." Can't imagine what prohibitive costs have to do with increasing accessibility.

Finally Gordo tried to save himself from being a total loser in the debate by telling what was supposed to be a touching story about how he wants to be able to tell his Grandson that "we did everything we could to make BC a better place," of course since Gordo and his family are from amongst the ruling class it is entirely true. He DID do everything he could to make BC a better place for THEM... at the expense of workers, students, youth, seniors, children, education,
health care, social security and so on and so forth. 

The first true words spoken by the man all night.

James said she had a "positive vision," that "families come first," and that there are "two choices."

Sterk simply said "there are three choices" and emphasized that they have many small business owners running for them.

All in all, I was actually surprised by some of the Green policies which were not as far right as I had thought they would have been based on things I had previously read from them. Still I think that over-all the NDP are probably the better party on the majority of issues. I think that this shows us that our policy of supporting the most progressive specific candidate in each constituency is the correct one.

What will be the result? Time will tell.

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